Is the iPad the Correct Tool to Aid Learning in Education?

Many educators have asked me – “Is the iPad the correct tool to aid learning in education?” Having read several articles as well as witnessing first hand the implementation of iPad programs in several K12 educational establishments. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I suppose it depends on the goals of your educational establishment and the age group of learners and what they need to achieve by using the iPad.

Therefore my own personal answers are Yes and No……..

No

If you are going to implement an iPad program then the pedagogical style of education in the classroom must change. There is no point in simply giving out iPads to every student and expecting everyone to use it as a tool for learning. I have seen this in action, where a private school gives each child an iPad as part of its admissions; the cost is included in the school fees. “What great marketing”, but no help with the actual learning of the child. The teachers had not been trained to use the iPad; the school infrastructure had not been designed to cope with 200 students using the iPad all at the same time. Parents were asked to purchase and download the apps at home, so loss of control from the school’s point of view, with parents who were not really trained correctly with technology use at home. No thought about the older students who need to type 5000 word projects on an iPad keyboard. No training given to teachers or students about Internet safety, correct usage in the classroom and digital citizenship.  No thought about storage of personal data or even transfer of data, no thought over the applications available on the iPad and whether they are suitable in the classroom.

Yes

If you have planned your implementation correctly, considered all the points mentioned above, then your iPad program is likely to be much more successful:

  • Supportive, designed, and managed wireless infrastructure
  • Teacher continuous training and support
  • Introduction of classroom IT Integrators/Innovators
  • Parental workshops to support home use of technology and understanding the use of technology in the classroom
  • Control, centralized and managed downloading of Apps by the school
  • IT pedagogy, how to use iPads to aid learning in the classroom (and at home)
  • A supportive and fully trained IT technical team
  • Data storage and data transfer
  • The correct Apps which will aid learning
  • The use of a LMS or VLE
  • The health and safety issues (how to look after and care for your iPad)

This list is not exhaustive and I am sure we can add several more important points to this list……..

Is the iPad suited for all ages?

This depends on what the iPad is going to be used for in education? I still believe at the moment it is more valuable as a learning tool for use in the Elementary/Primary school sector and that a laptop (MacBook or Notebook) would be more suitable to Middle/High school/ Secondary school, possibly if the budget allowed, an iPad would be useful as a supplementary learning tool. (I can see the benefits, the ease of carrying an iPad or any mobile device, the ease to make quick notes in a lecture theatre or classroom, the use of Science based Apps in 3D etc., the long battery life and the long list of other benefits mentioned in previous blog entries here). The processing power, storage capabilities, number of applications, software and of course a keyboard, simply make laptops currently a far more effective learning tool than the iPad. I have seen the separate keyboard that can be used with iPads as well as the overlay for the keyboard, this maybe a way forward for the future.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel the iPad is a fantastic educational tool, when used in a school environment that has been planned and where everyone fully supports the program. But if a school just gives an iPad to everyone and thinks the magic of learning will automatically take place, I feel that they may be proved sadly wrong.

Please comment and let me know your ideas and thoughts. Things that you have witnessed working well with 1:1 iPad implementation.

I have found this article by Mitchell A. Salerno, Michael Vonhof insightful for US state based implementation of the iPad in K12 education.

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/12/2011 and update 12/10/2014

Why use iPads in Education?

To be successful when using technology in education, it is important to focus on engagement, creativity, inquiry-based learning and differentiated instruction rather than on the technological tools used to amplify the learning which takes place in the classroom. I believe that iPads and other digital learning devices are a critical part of the learning process. The point of using an iPad in the classroom shouldn’t be simply to use the digital device, but to provide a tool to aid learning, as this will empower learners to engage in the transformation of learning experiences, which would not be possible without iPad technology. I believe that as educators we need to teach our children to be creative problem solvers; we want them to be leaders who can analyze a variety of sources for bias while synthesizing information to create a thorough understanding of a problem so that they can engage in dialogues to affect solutions. To do this we need to educate them and provide them with the right technology to achieve these outcomes. This is why I believe that the iPad, in addition to other mobile devices and  Apple learning platforms, is the right tool.

7 Key Reasons for using the iPad in Education:

Learning Styles:

The iPad is a streamlined, visually attractive tablet that is used primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content.  The auditory, kinesthetic and visual aspects of the tablet appeal to a variety of different learners and learning styles. The iPad enables personalized learning by giving learners the responsibility and ownership to choose how they learn, when they learn and where they learn; as well as developing their organizational skills.

Creativity:

The vast number of Apps allows all types of learners from different age groups to be creative by expanding the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom, from interactive lessons to study aids to productivity tools. The use of iMovie and GarageBand provide opportunities for all learners to show their creative nature and skills.

Technical:

The iPad requires minimal maintenance (as with most Apple products) and installation of software as well as booting up much more quickly than other mobile devices. Because of its solid-state hard drive, there is minimal time wasting in connecting to the network and logging in. The iPad has its own operating system and software, which is optimized to ensure ease of use and fast access to its software and Apps.

Accessibility:

Learners have accessibility to the world 24/7 (subject to internet access). Students don’t need to carry a huge number of textbooks, dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases etc. The iPad has accessibility built in, it comes with a screen reader, support for playback of closed-captioned content and a universal zoom feature which provides magnification of the entire screen of any application. It also supports a wireless Braille display and international Braille tables.

Battery Life:

The battery life is relatively long, on average I would say at least 7 hours.  The iPad 2 can stay charged for the entire school day, although learners need to take responsibility for charging the device

Any Age and Anyone:

The iPad can be used by anyone, at any age from pre-school through to adult life. I have found it especially useful for learners who have learning difficulties.  The ipad is easy to use and can improve the progress of learning for everyone, regardless of ability, and this makes it a powerful tool.

Motivation: 

I have read many discussions about the Hawthorne Effect with the iPad and being a new technological tool for learning in the classroom, this maybe true. However, anyone who has been in a class of K12 learners who are all using an iPad will see that the response from the learners is one of engagement, wonderment, learning and of progress. It is fair to say this may be short lived, though I believe it will be long lasting and of course Apple will bring out another adapted tablet or a new product in a year or two which again revolutionizes mobile technology as a tool to aid learning in the classroom and beyond.

There are many other factors to consider, which are not mentioned here – the one of cost and budgetary requirements comes to mind. Also, as previously stated, the adoption of technology will only be successful if the associated pedagogy relates to the correct use of mobile devices in the classroom and associated learning philosophy. As my school is a 1:1 Apple school, it makes sense for us to continue to adopt Apple technology. I am sure there are other android-based tablets that will also aid learning in education but as yet I have not seen any evidence.

By Steven David Pearce 26th May 2011